The Yorkshire Evening Post fans’ jury was split on only one thing after Saturday’s Championship victory over Brighton – they couldn’t agree on a man of the match
There cannot be many better sounds in football than Elland Road in full voice, and on Saturday afternoon the fans, to paraphrase an old classic, certainly made the rafters ring as they roared on the team to another memorable win in what will hopefully be a season to remember.
Hopefully, now the doubters will be silenced as Garry Monk’s team again came up with the goods when it really mattered. Recent performances may have been seen as indifferent, but when this Leeds team really needs a result, then they more often than not get the job done.
They entered the game on Saturday teatime, no doubt buoyed by another weekend where almost every result went for them. After Huddersfield were battered in Bristol and the Owls had been shot down by Reading, Fulham’s mauling by Wolves left the Whites knowing that a win would propel them within touching distance of guaranteeing a play-off place. All they had to do was overcome a classy Brighton side who, just a few weeks ago, looked nailed on for automatic promotion.
However, thier recent wobbles meant that they seemed content to pick up a point at Elland Road, and the early stages saw the two teams spar with each other without landing a heavy punch.
When the killer blow did come, it was one of those moments where the crowd almost sucked the ball into the net. A couple of tasty challenges in the middle of the park raised the temperature and the volume and seemed to propel Charlie Taylor into making the sort of surging run that has made him one of the best full-backs in the league.
His cross brilliantly picked out, who else but Chris Wood and his perfect header looped over the Fulham keeper and lifted the roof of the old stadium.
The goal prompted Fulham into attack mode, and but for some more heroics from Rob Green, they may have come away with the point they set out for. However, Soulemayne Doukara bought a penalty, albeit a nailed on one, by driving into the penalty area, drawing a rash challenge and going down to make sure it was given. There wasn’t really any doubt that Wood would despatch it, and he smashed it down the middle and splintered any hopes of a Brighton comeback.
It was barely noticed that two of the regular back-four were missing, and credit has to go to Liam Cooper for stepping in and producing a performance that made Pontus Jansson’s unexplained absence one that was hardly noticed.
It underlined how well this squad has fitted together, and bodes well for the weeks to come.
Two more wins are probably required to make the play-offs a mathematical certainty, but in my opinion we are nailed on for the top six.
Man of the match: Ronaldo Vieira.
Leeds produced a sterling second-half performance to beat highly placed Brighton 2-0 at a ‘bouncing’ Elland Road. The victory cements Leeds’ place in the play-off places.
Garry Monk surprised everybody by selecting Liam Cooper instead of Pontus Jansson.
Leeds started very well, but their possession didn’t result in a opening goal, while Kyle Bartley and Cooper made sure any opportunities Brighton had were snuffed out. Leeds were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty and Rob Green saved superbly from Cooper’s deflection at his near post.
After half-time words from Garry Monk, Charlie Taylor’s superb cross found Chris Wood for the opener.
Brighton, a goal behind, were denied again by Green, and Bartley and Cooper repelled the rest. Leeds used their substitutes wisely and made the game safe when Wood blasted in from the penalty spot.
A superb victory by the Whites and, with most of the top-six teams not getting wins – Reading apart – it can be seen as a very positive weekend for Leeds United.
The gap to seventh is now eight points and sixth is seven points.
A mention to the crowd: it’s a few years since I’ve heard it so loud, superb support.
Man of the match: Chris Wood and Liam Cooper.
A more energetic performance than against QPR with Liam Cooper replacing Pontus Jansson – and having a ball. United had a good first half but excelled themselves in the second. Great performances from Green, Berardi, Bridcutt and Vieira.
Man of the match: Ronaldo Vieira.
Another great win in a season of many. United put in another gutsy performance that held Brighton at bay and nicked the win in front of a passionate Elland Road crowd.
Liam Cooper played magnificently on a rare start to silence some of those fans who’ve treated him so shabbily since he became third choice earlier in the year.
Everyone played well, though, with special mentions for Berardi, Vieira, Rob Green and, of course, two-goal Chris Wood. The only downer was the mystery of Pontus Jansson’s omission and his perplexing body language at full time.
Still, two weeks to sort that out ...
... and automatic promotion is still on.
Man of the match: Liam Cooper.
United sent out a message to their promotion rivals with a thoroughly convincing victory against high-flying Brighton.
After a tense hour Chris Wood scored then doubled the lead with a penalty that sent the Whites closer to the play-offs.
Man of the match: Chris Wood.
For the first hour I thought I was right on the money, calling this as a second consecutive nil-nil draw.
We’d seen hardly a shot on target and very few attempts as both defences looked impregnable and such half-chances as there were going astray. But then that feeling came back, that feeling that the stars are aligning. A moment of magic from Charlie Taylor; a classic header from Wood; a typical piece of Doukara running; and another unstoppable penalty from Woody and the game suddenly looked very different. The stats suggest there was little between these sides but Leeds had two things the Seagulls didn’t; that killer instinct and an error free defence!
Man of the match: Rob Green.